What Really Happened to the ‘Berserk’?
In September 2017, Outside published a feature about the ‘Berserk,’ a ship that went missing in 2011 off the coast of Antarctica with three men aboard. The expedition leader, Jarle Andhoy, disagreed with the story we published, which contained some factual errors, and with our portrayal of the lost men of the ‘Berserk.’ He also believed that the story left out crucial information about the days before the ship’s disappearance. Outside editor in chief Christopher Keyes interviewed Andhoy and his lawyer, Gunnar Nerdrum Aagaard, to better understand new details the two have gathered, which may help explain what happened to the men on board.
OUTSIDE: As our story related, in January 2010, aboard a craft called the Berserk, you set out from Norway with a crew of five people. In early 2011, you left Auckland, New Zealand—
JARLE ANDHOY: Well, the Berserk had done numerous expeditions before this. Our goal was to retrace the 100-year anniversaries of Roald Amundsen’s successful navigation of the Northwest Passage and his expedition to the South Pole. We sailed out of the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico, in 2006, and navigated through the Northwest Passage. That expedition hit a few bumps along the way, and we left the Berserk in Nome, Alaska. In 2009, we did work on the Berserk in Dutch Harbor and then continued.
Got it, thanks. To clarify: I was referring only to the Antarctica portion of your journey, which started in 2010.
ANDHOY: That’s correct. That year we sailed the Pacific from the Bering Sea down to New Zealand, with a mix of newcomers and some shipmates from the previous trip.
Let’s review who was on board when you left New Zealand. The crew included you, a South African named Leonard James Banks, and three Norwegians: Samuel Massie, Tom Gisle Bellika, and Robert Skaanes.
ANDHOY: Yes, and Bellika was the captain in the Southern Ocean. He had sailed with me in Greenland and through the Northwest Passage, so I knew him very well. Rob was a diver, and Lenny grew up surfing and sailing. They were selected for the expedition after about a year on board.
You sailed south and reached Horseshoe Bay, a body of water near the Ross Ice Shelf, in mid-February of 2011. While Bellika, Banks, and Skaanes stayed on the boat, you and Massie set off on ATVs to travel to the South Pole. Your plan was to reach it, head back to a rendezvous with the Berserk, and sail north. On your tenth day out, a big storm hit. Is that accurate?
ANDHOY: That’s right. And in our plan, safety came first, so I had a line of communication going with Bellika. I was expedition leader on land; he was captain on the boat. We kept in contact and all was good until we got notice about a coming storm the night before the Berserk left its anchorage and base camp in Horseshoe Bay.
Your mission was to reach the pole and get back safely. What was their job?
ANDHOY: To stay with the Berserk and, if necessary, take shelter inside Ernest Shackleton’s hut. [Editor’s note: The hut is from the 1907–9 British Antarctic Expedition, during which Shackleton tried and failed to reach the South Pole. It sits on Cape Royds in McMurdo Sound.] The bay is the safest place for getting shelter from big seas, ice, and winds. The Berserk crew were also making preparations for overwintering if they had to. That involved storing equipment like fuel, food, tools, and shovels.